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A Father's Route to the Truth

Studies indicate that the overwhelming majority of children tell the truth when they disclose abuse. Yet when children report abuse, it is common for adults to think children are mistaken or making up stories. Naturally, parents don’t want to believe that their child is being hurt, much less on purpose and especially by someone they trust. Without realizing it, caregivers may create an environment that allows abuse to continue.

Robert, a single dad to eight-year-old Marcy, started to pick up additional work shifts in the evenings for extra income. He asked his brother Tim to stay with Marcy on those nights so she wouldn’t be alone. Tim had been watching Marcy for a few weeks when she told her dad that her uncle had been tickling her and rubbing up against her. Thinking his brother would never do anything to harm Marcy, Robert told her that Uncle Tim was probably just playing, and it was nothing to worry about.

The next week Marcy invited her friend Tanya to a sleepover. Robert had a last-minute offer to work a night shift, so he called his brother. As the girls were getting ready for bed, Uncle Tim came into the room and brushed up against Tanya’s backside. She jumped away, but he did it again. The next morning she told her mom, who reported it to the police.

The detective set up CALICO interviews for Tanya and Marcy, and both children came to CALICO with a parent. Marcy answered the interviewer’s questions about what she had seen Uncle Tim do to Tanya, and also revealed how her uncle had done similar things to her. Meanwhile, a CALICO family resource specialist met with Marcy’s father to answer his questions. Robert’s voice shook while he confided that his daughter had tried to tell him what was going on. He said that he just hadn’t been able to believe his brother would do anything like that intentionally. Robert was enraged by his brother’s actions, and also felt deep guilt for not listening to his daughter. The family resource specialist helped Robert work through these feelings and understand typical “grooming” techniques that adults often use to offend against children. Rubbing and tickling are common tactics and often progress to more manipulative actions. She also connected Robert with a therapist for himself and his daughter and agencies to help with child care.

When CALICO staff called to check in on Robert a month later, he shared how well he and Marcy were doing now. He expressed his gratitude for the referral to his current therapist, who also helped him learn to be more comfortable talking to his daughter about situations that can lead to abuse. Marcy loves spending time with her new friends at the child care center and is confident that she can tell her dad anything now and that he will listen.

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